‘What does the word ‘love’ mean to you?’
Last year this question made me think. I was following a writer’s course during which I received a question a day for one hundred days.

One day this question popped up in my inbox and I started to write down all my thoughts right away. These thoughts came straight from my heart and made me realize that I could definitely use some more TLC, Tender Loving Care. Not so much from my loved ones, but from myself. By writing down my answer to this question I discovered that I had developed a great lack of self-care.

In this blog I will tell you about my physical relapse and how I dealt with this. I will explain why taking care of myself turned out to be very important to me as a person with many roles to fulfill. Also, I will share with you my outcome of the meaning of love. I will give you my six personal and best tips for (more) self-care.

Expats again in only six weeks

On February 1, 2019, we moved to Luxembourg as expats. Since then our lives have been completely different. Everything was new to us: the country, the people, the language, the culture, but also our living and working situation. This was a major change that we were forced to adapt to in only six weeks.

Swiftly and smoothly

Everything needed to be sorted out, arranged for, and executed in those six weeks. We then moved on my husband’s first office day. Needless to say, that all of this needed a very tight planning to make the switch to our new life a swift and smooth one. But we managed to do so.

On the road again …

During the first eight months almost every weekend we drove the three-hour trip up and down between our expat country and our home country. This was because of our house and our farm pets that we were still keeping in our home country and needed our care.

Vrouw in shorst en geel shirt voor appartementengebouw
Our new home away from home

Everything but the girl

This was very time and energy consuming to me and I had a hard time to take a moment and listen to my own needs. In these eight months I was only focused on letting everything run smoothly. Everything but myself.

Physical complaints

I started to develop some physical complaints. First, I felt them only every now and then and very vaguely.

Over time they became more evident: I was tired all the time, each night I would sleep only until 4 AM, I gradually lapsed into unhealthy eating habits and I started to feel depressed.

All this time I experienced a lot of stress; I forced myself to do it all and to do it perfectly.

When, when, when …

I was going to take time for myself when our apartment in Luxembourg was completely furnished and decorated, when my husband had found his own rhythm in working and private life, when I had taken the dog at least once a day for a long walk to give him his exercise, etcetera.

I was convinced that when everything and everybody would run smoothly, I would run smoothly as well. I would enjoy this new expat life that way. In reality, I started to lose pleasure in living this expat life.

Vrouw met bril en gele muts eet broodje braadworst
Unhealthy eating habits

Wakeup call

And then I did my back in. Twice. The second time the pain was unbearable and literally took my breath away. Worst of all, it would not diminish unless I lay still and completely relaxed my body.

Pain killers and muscle relaxers did their job for the moment, but I realized that my body had given me a wakeup call. I had been going on for too long and too far neglecting my own needs. My body had literally stopped me.

What does the word ‘love’ mean to you?

At this time the writer’s course question popped up in my mailbox: ‘What does the word ‘love’ mean to you?’ While writing down my answer to this question,

I unknowingly changed the subject to self-love and self-care. I finally got the picture of how important it is to love myself and to take good care of myself. But most of all I realized how easily I would forget to pay attention to this.

Standstill

My body had literally whistled me back and had forced me to come to a standstill. The question ‘What does the word ‘love’ mean to you?’ forced me to contemplate what was important to me in order for me to be able to continue to function and enjoy my expat life.

Taking care of my body is now my first priority

Six times ‘Self-love means to me …’

Below I will present to you the six most important aspects of self-love and self-care that I wrote down for myself. Perhaps one or two aspects might apply to you or at least make you think about what self-love and self-care means to you and whether you need to implement this a little bit more:

  1. Self-love means to me: listening to my heart and my gut feeling

    I have noticed that the first thought that pops up usually is a thought that comes straight from my subconscious mind and therefor from my heart: it is pure and without judgment or question.

    My focus now is to listen more carefully and to respond faster and more spontaneously to these thoughts. By doing this I am responding to my intuition, my gut feeling, that first thought from the heart. I put this into action, and I have noticed that I am less stressed because I do things that I love doing or that I am ready for at that precise moment.

  2. Self-love means to me: taking my feeling of distress/ discomfort seriously

    When I experience stress, I take it seriously and try to track down the cause of it; why do I experience stress right now? Where is it coming from? And each time I have discovered that I am doing something against my will. Not necessarily imposed by somebody else, but I have the tendency to attend to others first before I attend to myself. And that very frequently causes a lot of stress within me.

    My focus now is to stop the activity or step out of the situation right away. If this is not possible, I tell myself: ‘This too will come to an end and when it does, I will attend to myself. I will do something that makes me feel good and  happy.’ Something as simple as taking a ten minute-tea break while reading my favorite magazine would suffice.

  3. Self-care means to me: taking good care of my body

    Clean eating, exercise regularly, go to bed in time, rise early and taking time outs. When I follow these ‘rules’ I am at my best. I do try to give myself some slack to deviate from this every now and then. But when I experience stress, most of the time it is because I have neglected one or more of these ‘rules.’

  4. Self-love means to me: lowering the bar

    It is not for nothing that at my third tip I talk about giving myself some slack every now and then. If I did not follow all of my daily ‘rules’ than so be it. Tomorrow there will be another day with new chances.

    I do strive to live by my own rules, because I do feel and function a lot better then when I do not. But I try to let go of ‘having to’ and I have noticed that it makes me feel so much more relaxed. And gentler, both to myself and my surroundings. Now I can laugh about a silly joke rather than feeling addressed by it.

  5. Self-love means to me: dare to be myself

    … and showing this to the world; unabashed, pure, natural. Without expectations from others or judging them myself. Just being myself and loving myself. To follow my own path and make my own choices. Not for others, but for me.

    A while ago I was attending an expat meeting for newcomers. That evening I was asked three times if I was interested in a job. Each time I answered ‘No, thank you.’ Before I would have started to doubt whether I should look for a job. Now I am convinced that my blog is my job, my path to follow. It makes me feel happy and I can develop it into something that is completely me.

  6. Self-care means to me: To enjoy

    To enjoy my new stage of life. To enjoy the things that I undertake, big and small. To enjoy my loved ones; family, dear friends and our pets. To enjoy the moment, like when I drink my cup of tea or cappuccino or when I catch the sun rays on my face.

    I can completely unwind when I walk in the forest with my dog. I can fully enjoy each season with its own weather type and the natural habitat responding to it. I LOVE yoga. And I am thankful for having been given the opportunity to live the expat life one more time.
Woman with winter coat and glasses in forest
I just love hiking the forests of Luxembourg

These are the six most important aspects of self-love and self-care to me which is my personal theme of this year. I am thankful that I was forced to think about the question ‘What does the word ‘love’ mean to you?’ at a time that I needed self-reflection the most.

Perhaps one or two aspects might apply to you or at least make you think about what self-love and self-care means to you and whether you need to implement this a little bit more. After all, I feel that all of us expat ladies could use more self-love and self-care.

Take good care of yourself,
Natasja

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